Prospect of Stadium Has Many Hopeful, Wary

By DEBORAH BELGUM, DANNY KING and CLAUDIA PESCHIUTTA
Staff Reporters

When it comes to pro football in Los Angeles, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Last week's proposal by Anschutz Entertainment Group for a $400 million-plus football stadium south of downtown and within sight of Staples Center raises some of the same questions from 1999, when several of these same businessmen were unable to bring an expansion team to Los Angeles. This time, however, there are glimmers of difference. A look at some basic questions and answers:



How is this proposal different from past ones?

While many details about the latest stadium proposal remained unknown last week, there were indications that the plan might have a better chance than past efforts.

The proposed site lies somewhere in downtown's South Park district (AEG didn't say exactly where), an area bordered by Figueroa Street, Olympic Boulevard, Hill Street and the Santa Monica (10) Freeway. That's a more central location than previous proposed sites, such as Carson and Hollywood Park in Inglewood.

Also, stadium developers likely would face less opposition from locals in urban South Park than they would in Chavez Ravine, the residential area that's home to Dodger Stadium and once considered another potential site.

Another difference: This latest proposal has a well-connected group of investors familiar with the challenges of trying to bring the National Football League back to L.A.

Philip Anschutz, chairman of Qwest Communications International Inc., and Ed Roski, chairman and chief executive of Majestic Realty, were behind one of the most viable earlier proposals the renovation of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This time, Roski and Anschutz, partners in Staples Center, have added billionaire Ron Burkle who pushed an opposing plan in the late 1990s and L.A. Avengers owner Casey Wasserman.

Another factor that could help: the lack of other viable proposals. A few years ago, "you had multiple groups knifing at one another," said David Carter, principal at the Sports Marketing Group. "That collective backbiting was very detrimental because it really sucked a lot of life out of the process."



What does the city need to do to make this work?

Though the proposed ownership group has pledged to put up the $400-$450 million to construct the stadium, they want the city to issue bonds for the purchase of a 20-acre site, which could cost up to $100 million.

AEG President Tim Leiweke said the group would repay the city over a 20-year period through sales tax and incremental property tax revenues generated by the facility. Investors would make up any shortfall.

The Community Redevelopment Agency likely would have to use eminent domain to acquire some of the property. Such efforts could be slowed or halted by an expected legal challenge from the county.

The city will soon form a negotiating committee made up of members of the CRA, L.A. City Chief Legislative Analyst's Office and the mayor's business team. That group will decide how to proceed with the proposal.



What would be the effect of the 879-acre City Center redevelopment zone on the project?

AEG, which already has purchased a portion of the 20 acres it says is required for the stadium, can finance anywhere between 15 and 25 percent of the development cost by selling the land back to the city, which can use tax exempt bonds for the purchase. AEG also has promised to make up any shortfalls, making the deal a "no risk, no tax commitment" one for the city, according to Leiweke.

If AEG runs up against a landlord unwilling to sell, the city can purchase the property through eminent domain. However, if the city uses property tax increment funds to back the bonds, the county could sue, tying up the process indefinitely.

The county has already stated its opposition to the declaration of the 30 acres of parking lots just to the north and east of Staples Center as part of the redevelopment zone. It is holding a closed session this week in order to decide whether or not to sue the CRA.

"If the city wants to use financing for it, be it a bond issue or tax subsidy, that's fine," said Joel Bellman, press deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "But we would have a problem using a county tax increment."



Who are the prime NFL candidates to use the new stadium?

The San Diego Chargers, moving its training camp to Anschutz's new Carson facility next year, emerges as the leading candidate. There is speculation, though, that AEG is using the Chargers as a straw man to pave the way for another team.

Other potential teams include the Minnesota Vikings and the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings were recently put on the block by owner Red McCombs, and the Cardinals are looking for an improvement over Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium.

Any move would have to be approved by the NFL, which has formed a committee to study L.A.'s viability as a league city.



What kind of impact will a new downtown stadium have to the L.A. economy?

Football stadiums usually contribute very little to the local economy. Pro teams play eight home games a season and employ only part-time ticket takers, parking lot attendants and concession workers.

The big payoff comes when a Super Bowl is held. The event can drop up to $300 million into the local economy. Executives entertain clients, book expensive hotel rooms, eat at top-of-the-line restaurants and rent luxury cars.

AEG, which would build the stadium, is trying to get the NFL to promise that three Super Bowl games would be held in L.A.



How would a downtown football stadium affect the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum?

Pasadena's long-shot effort to get a pro football team to the Rose Bowl obviously would end. UCLA continues to play at the Rose Bowl, but alumni and students alike have groused about its distant location. The school's seven-year agreement to play at the storied facility expires Nov. 30, 2003.

"This could mean that UCLA would leave," said Charles Thompson Jr., a Rose Bowl spokesman. "That would leave us with the Rose Bowl game and flea markets."

Things don't appear as bleak at the Coliseum. Home to University of Southern California's football team, the Trojans this year renewed its seven-year contract. Blocks away from campus, it is unlikely the team would move.

But other athletic events, such as soccer games and high school championship games, might play in the new downtown stadium.



What role is the NFL itself likely to play?

This could be the biggest wild card. Ever since the Raiders left in 1995, the league has publicly indicated its interest in seeing a team come to L.A. But several key owners have made no secret of their concerns, which have ranged from the unwillingness of local elected officials to help finance a stadium to questions about whether Los Angeles could support a team.

Just two months ago, when word of the Anschutz effort began to circulate, Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell told reporters, "There's so much to do out there 12 months a year, it's got to be a captivating element to capture people and sit them down for three or four hours. I haven't seen it from people in L.A."

Still, there are signs that the attitudes among owners might be changing borne out by a lengthy meetings with league officials and the launching of a study by several owners on a team for Los Angeles. One other change from previous years: a growing reluctance by other cities to help finance stadiums, which puts L.A. on a more level playing field.

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